Big brother steps in

Conflict is looming between the ANC and its youth wing after the ANC announced that it would step into the squabble between the ANC Youth League’s national leadership and its provincial structure in the Eastern Cape.

The intervention of the ANC stems from a decision by the league’s national executive committee (NEC) to disband the Eastern Cape provincial executive, saying it was ‘weak” and had ‘failed to provide leadership” or ‘build structures” in the province.

Smuts Ngonyama, the ANC national spokesperson, said on SABC TV this week that the ANC planned to step into the dispute at the request of the Eastern Cape ANCYL.

On Thursday he downplayed the possibility of conflict, saying: ‘There’s no intervention as such.” However, he made it clear the ANC had a right to intervene.

‘Autonomy doesn’t mean independence. It is called the ANC Youth League because it is an autonomous structure within the ANC,” Ngonyama said.

However, Eastern Cape league president Thabo Mdukiswa said placard-carrying protesters had disrupted a planned meeting on the issue between national and provincial leaders in King William’s Town on Thursday.

The youth league in the Eastern Cape has disputed claims that it is dysfunctional, insisting the move is a response to its support for President Thabo Mbeki in the ANC succession battle.

The province sharply attacked the league’s national leaders over their support for Jacob Zuma, saying the organisation had been reduced to ‘mobilising force [and] cannon fodder to buttress the agenda of an individual to the detriment of building [league] structures”.

It quoted a secretariat report tabled by Sihle Zikalala, league secretary general, at an NEC meeting last week, which paints a grim picture of countrywide leadership paralysis in the league.

The report says that only two of the nine provincial executives are in control.
In some provinces task teams had been sent to run the organisation through a ‘decisive deployment process” by the NEC.

Thabo Matiwane, the league’s Eastern Cape secretary, said the NEC’s reasons for disbanding provincial structures were ‘not clear” and ‘not organisational”.

The youth league has postponed the league’s national conference until 2008—allegedly because it is losing control in some provinces and battling to contain divisions over Zuma.

Support for Zuma is known to have waned in the ANCYL’s provincial structures, mainly in the Eastern Cape, but also in Gauteng, North West and Western Cape.

The three-year tenure of the current national leadership expires next year. But last week, league president Fikile Mbalula said the ANCYL congress would be delayed to enable the organisation to concentrate on preparing for the ANC policy conference in June and the party’s national conference in December.

Mbalula said the league was lobbying hard for the leadership election at the ANC conference.

‘The ANCYL has political interest in the outcome of that election. We want to influence and be influenced by the ANC conference,” he said.

Zuma clearly perceives the importance of controlling the Eastern Cape in the succession battle. He was apparently among the first ANC leaders who called Stone Sizani, the newly elected provincial chairperson, after he won the election against pro-Zuma candidate Mcebisi Jonas.

The province has 106 000 audited ANC members and has historically been the biggest voting bloc at the ANC congresses.

Zuma is rumoured to have told Sizani that he is ‘available when the province needs him”. Sizani refused to disclose what passed between them.

Mbalula could not be reached for comment about the new developments in the Eastern Cape.

Lowdown on youth leagues

South African Students Congress (Sasco)

With a membership of 50 000, Sasco dominates the student representative councils of a range of universities, including Wits, UCT and the universities of Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal. But it has suffered setbacks this year, losing elections at the University of Fort Hare and elsewhere.

Though essentially the ANC’s student wing, Sasco has no voting rights at ANC conferences. The leadership leans towards President Thabo Mbeki in the ANC succession race. Mbeki addressed its conference last week and the leadership rejected a resolution in favour of ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma.

ANC Youth League

The Youth League claims to be South Africa’s largest political organisation, with 800 000 members. The ANC claims to have 450 000 members.

The league is influential in the ANC, sending delegates to ANC conferences as a 10th province. Its president and secretary sit on the ANC’s national executive committee, while its president sits on the national working committee.

Candidates for the ANC president have historically needed the league’s support. Even Mbeki, whom its leaders now openly despise, was a league candidate in 1997.

However, divisions around Jacob Zuma have split the league, which, until recently, seemed solidly behind him. Deputy president Reuben Mohlaloga was expelled for dissent and the pro-Mbeki Eastern Cape structure has been disbanded.

Young Communist League (YCL)

Women form 56% of the claimed 28 000 membership, which is strongest in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.

The YCL pioneered the debate on whether the SACP should break away from the tripartite alliance, an issue to be decided at the SACP congress next year.

Its influence in the SACP is exerted largely through its national secretary and national chairperson, who sit on the central committee. The national secretary sits on the SACP politburo.

The YCL has been preoccupied with defending Zuma, but it also took up campaigns of communities dissatisfied with municipal re-demarcation.

The Zuma issue has also led to cracks and expulsions in this youth formation.

The YCL has mended fences with the ANC Youth League to form a united block called the Progressive Youth Alliance.—Thabo Mohlala, Monako Dibetle and Rapule Tabane

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